Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

May 2015

UCO Students Win Big in Governor’s Cup, Advance to Finals

UCO Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup winners.

UCO graduate team ParaNano LLC took second place in the High Growth Graduate Division at the Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup Business Plan Competition in Oklahoma City in April, winning $12,000 and the opportunity to compete in Governor’s Cup finals in Las Vegas in May. From left, Hitesh Munishamappa Prakash; Jordan Powers; Paul Snow; Gov. Mary Fallin; Shreyas Shivaprakash; Maurice Haff; and Chelsea Larsen receive their team’s award from Gov. Fallin.

Undergraduate and graduate teams from the University of Central Oklahoma recently celebrated success at the Oklahoma Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup
Business Plan Competition, taking home second- and third-place finishes and prize money totaling $19,000. Central’s graduate team traveled to Las Vegas May 27-28 for the Tri-State Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup Business Plan Competition, where they competed against teams from Arkansas and Nevada for a total cash prize pool of $118,000.

The Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup is a statewide collegiate entrepreneurial competition that mimics the process of market research, establishing a

business plan and pitching the concept to potential investors. Central’s teams include students from the university’s College of Business, College of Mathematics and Science, and College of Education and Professional Studies (CEPS).

UCO’s graduate team, ParaNano LLC, took second place in the High Growth Graduate Division and collected winnings of $12,000. The university’s undergraduate team, Pulse LLC, placed third in the High Growth Undergraduate Division and collected winnings of $7,000.

Oklahoma-based Innovation to Enterprise (i2E) is the sponsor of the cup. Following the competition, teams are encouraged to use prize money and other opportunities provided by i2E to continue product development and start a company.

“Guided by members of UCO’s faculty, UCO students distinguished themselves in every category of comparative individual and team competition with universities across the state. A unique feature of the UCO teams was that they represented several departments and colleges modeling the collaboration
and interdisciplinary learning we at UCO intentionally encourage,” said UCO President Don Betz.

“Anyone associated with UCO should be affirmed that our students have, once again, demonstrated their abilities to compete and succeed at the highest levels. We are pleased and proud for our students and mentoring faculty alike.”

Members of Central’s graduate team, ParaNano LLC, developed an electrospinning device that allows for the controlled placement of nanofibers, microscopic fibers invisible to the naked eye, with applications in medicine like artificial organs, implant material, wound dressing and more.

Controlling the placement of nanofibers — a process that had been impossible until this point — allows the creation of more complex structures and makes new applications for the fibers possible.

ParaNano LLC hopes to commercialize the prototype technology for laboratory and low-volume manufacturing applications. ParaNano is currently in the seed financing stage of production.

Morshed Khandaker, Ph.D., associate professor in Central’s College of Mathematics and Science, co-invented the ParaNano technology with UCO alumnus Paul Snow of Oklahoma City. Team members include team leader and UCO alumna Chelsea Larsen from Choctaw, Oklahoma; Hitesh Munishamappa Prakash, a current MBA student at Central from Bangalore, India; alumnus Jordan Powers from Oklahoma City; and Shreyas Shivaprakash, a current MBA student at Central from Bangalore, India.

In addition to the team’s group success, Larsen took first in the sales pitch portion of the competition, earning at extra $1,000 for ParaNano LLC.

Snow, whose degree is in mechanical engineering and physics, called the process “eye-opening.”

“The process showed me how to move from first idea to profitable product. Then we were able to compete and see how we stacked up against others fighting for the same funding. It was fast-paced, dynamic and potentially lucrative,” he added.

Members of Central’s undergraduate team, Pulse LLC, developed an innovative, patent-pending food technology that produces high-protein, high-fiber yogurt from lentils. The team hopes to commercialize Pulse yogurt for the $8 billion yogurt market in the U.S.

Kanika Bhargavam, Ph.D., assistant professor in Central’s CEPS, co-invented Pulse yogurt with team leader Carissa Jetto of Edmond, a senior nutrition and management major who has culinary arts training from Le Cordon Bleu. Team members include Dakota Derryberry, junior business management major from Hydro, Okla., and Stevie Simpson, junior general studies major from Oklahoma City.

Though the team did not advance to the Tri-State Cup, they will continue to develop their product and hope to raise additional funding in the future.

“The Governor's Cup gives UCO students the entrepreneurial opportunity to interact with students from different disciplines, and together to apply their learning and talents in competition with the best in Oklahoma to achieve financial rewards. If you're looking for a definition of transformative learning, this is it,” said Robert Epstein, Ph.D., professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Central.

Epstein, along with Maurice Haff, instructor of entrepreneurship and innovation Central’s College of Business and a U.S. patent agent, serve as faculty advisers for both teams.

For more information, contact Epstein at repstein@uco.edu or Haff at mhaff@uco.edu.

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